Home > Bloodlust (Blood Destiny #5)

Bloodlust (Blood Destiny #5)
Author: Helen Harper

Chapter One

The suffocating pain in my head just wouldn’t go away. It didn’t help, of course, that the bickering at the table was getting progressively louder with each disagreement.

“We’re wasting our time with this.” Scorn dripped palpably from Staines’ voice.

I wondered idly whether, in my position as head of the task force designed to take down Endor, I could force the werebear to attend charm school. Maybe in Switzerland with a bunch of well-to-do teenage girls. Or perhaps Timbuktu.

“It’s hardly our fault that he’s not come back to this plane in the last week. Divination only stretches so far. We’re not God, for goodness’ sake.”

I decided I’d send the entire delegation of mages along with him. They would be good at studying after all the years they had to spend at mage academies learning their art; in fact, they’d probably fit right in.

“Clearly,” Staines sniffed.

“Her Most Eloquent and Gracious Majesty, the Summer Queen, believes that we should begin examining which planes this low-life human scum may be cowering in.”

“And you’re volunteering for that, are you? Starting with the first few hundred thousand?”

Beltran sent Lucy a withering look. “We’re quite happy to narrow it down to a small list of possible demesnes and let you, as the brawn and clearly not the brains of this operation, investigate. It’s about time the Brethren stepped up to the plate.”

Just to keep things fair, I’d order the faeries to attend military bootcamp. Preferably in Siberia. Not that they didn’t know how to fight, but they needed to be encouraged sometimes to follow orders and step up to the proverbial plate.

A pulsating vein began to appear at the side of Staines’ forehead. I watched it, momentarily fascinated.

“Are you suggesting that we are stupid or something? Where exactly do the lot of you think that you would be without us right about now? Our strategies and tactics provided the single glimpse of an opportunity to take down this Endor.”

“Strategy and tactics that came as a result of the Draco Wyr, not you. Besides,” stated the Fae with a deliberate air of nonchalance, “you failed that time. Or had you forgotten?”

A deep rumble emanated from Lucy’s throat. “At least we were there. You lot were hiding out in the woods.”

“We were hardly hiding. If it hadn’t been for our intervention in bringing the humans along, then imagine how much worse things would have gotten. I rather think we saved the day, in as much as it could have been saved. We don’t have to be here, you know. We can quite happily stay in Tir-na-Nog and leave tracking down Endor to you. But we’re not so heartless as to leave you without any hope of beating him.”

“Not so heartless? Hold on a minute,” interrupted Larkin. “When have you lot ever given a shit about any other species? You’re only here because you want a piece of her,” he jerked his head in my direction. “You’re the most fickle, untrustworthy and soulless creatures out there!”

“You mean more soulless than the necromancer whom we’re all here for in the first place? Really?”

“Don’t speak to him like that!”

“I’ll speak to him and you and anyone else who comes along in any manner that I please. What use are the lot of you magic men providing anyway?”

Max pushed his chair back. “Say that again.”

“What use are the lot of you magic men…” the Fae began.

Blue light began to buzz and flicker around Max’s bare skin. “I will destroy you.”

“Destroy me? I don’t think you even know how to create the simplest tracking spell, let alone something that can harm me.” He smirked. “Well? Do you?”

“Is the Pope a freaking Catholic? Do bears shit in the woods?”

Larkin laid a calming hand on Max’s arm. “Er…”

“What?” Max glanced down at his friend, who gave a pointed glance towards Staines. Realising what he’d just said, Max at least had the grace to blush ever so slightly.

Staines grimaced in disgust. “The faery speaks a modicum of sense. As far as the Brethren are concerned, we’re just helping out.” He looked at both the mages. “Let’s face it, as a necromancer, Endor really falls under your sole jurisdiction. You should be counting your lucky stars that we’re bothering to help out.”

A vision of Staines walking gingerly across a room with a book balanced on his head while Max and Larkin were in the corner flower-arranging suddenly popped into my mind. I let out an undignified snort. Everyone turned and stared at me so I pushed away the image and stared back, finally deciding it was time for me to enter the fray.

“If any of you wish to leave, then do so now. No-one will be held accountable if their respective organisations decide to pull out of this…” Waste of time? Utter catastrophe? Destruction of what could have been the rest of my happy life? “Council,” I finished. I congratulated myself on my calm tone of voice.

They all just looked at me. I pointed over to my left. “The door’s right there.”

Nobody moved a muscle.

“Okay then. No more complaining about who should or shouldn’t be here then. No more snide comments towards each other. No more bickering. You don’t say anything unless it’s going to help us find and destroy Endor.”

Acquiesced silence bounded back at me. I noticed, however, that the vein in Staines’ forehead had begun bulging again. Whatever.

“What is the status with the tree nymphs?”

Both Max and Lucy began to speak at once. I held up a hand to silence them, wishing I had thought to bring along some painkillers.

“Max?”

“We’ve placed wards around all of their main habitats. They are being maintained by a considerable amount of power that is depleting our…”

“Five words or less, Max.”

His shoulders sagged. “No activity on the wards,” he muttered.

“Lucy?”

She kept her face studiously blank as she answered. I guessed I was no longer considered a friend of the shifters then. I tried not to let it bother me. It didn’t bother me. Not at all. Not one teeny iota. That sudden ache in my chest was definitely because of indigestion, not because the cloud of held-back tears was building up again at my heart.

“No sign of any nasties.”

“Beltran?”

“The same.”

“Have there been any reports from any other Otherworld species? Anything untoward whatsoever?”

They all shook their heads.

“Has everyone been warned?”

Staines cleared his throat. I nodded at him to speak. At least all that Brethren hierarchy shit was good for something.

“All the leaders, lords, ladies and councils have been notified of the situation. There are also alerts on the Othernet with numbers to contact should there be any suggestion that the necromancer has reappeared.”

“Good. Re-route any calls that sound promising to me.” I flicked a glance at Beltran. “How would you go about narrowing down the list of potential planes where he might be hiding?”

“It’ll depend on who is already there and where we think he might feel comfortable. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack, admittedly, but we need to start somewhere.”

I pursed my lips. “Agreed. As soon as you have a workable list, divide it amongst yourselves, the mages and the shifters to begin searching.” I stared at them all, hard. “A minimum of one representative from each group needs to enter each plane together. If there is any doubt as to safety, then use your own discretion and bring more people. But if I hear of one, just one, infraction or disagreement or cross look, then I will be severely f**ked off and I will personally deal with those involved myself. And they won’t like it. We need to work together if we are going to track Endor down and beat him into f**king dust.”

They all looked unhappy at that, but didn’t disagree.

“Keep the Divination spells up, just in case he decides to suddenly show his face back here again,” I instructed the mages. They jerked their heads in agreement.

“Unless there are any other developments, then let’s meet back here again in a week.”

For a split second, nobody moved. I glared at them all, irritation blazing out full wattage. Everyone stood up and began to leave. For a moment, I thought that the arguments were going to break back out again when Larkin stepped on Beltran’s foot and a spasm crossed the Fae’s face. But the mage apologised clumsily and Beltran instead made a gesture of irritated dismissal. Lucy took the long way around the table to make her own exit, pausing for half a second to drop a small note next to me, then left herself. All that remained in the room was the lingering odour of the mages’ aftershave, which they’d probably only put on in such large quantities to piss off the shifters’ sensitive noses, the blissful silence, and Lucy’s note screaming up at me.

I stared at the small folded piece of paper. It had to be from Corrigan. It had been just three days since that awful meeting in this very room when I’d effectively dumped him in front of half of the Otherworld’s great and good. Despite the imminent and very real danger that Endor offered, I’d been able to think of virtually nothing since but the look in his eyes when he’d realised what was happening. I’d gone back over it again and again, wondering whether I’d made the right decision or not by conceding to the Arch-Mage and the Summer Queen’s demands. Half the time I thought I should have just told the pair of them to f**k off, the other half I didn’t think I’d had any choice.

I reached out and gingerly touched the paper, then drew my fingers back as if burned. He had said he didn’t want anything to do with me ever again. But I knew well that a bit of time and distance could calm frayed tempers. Perhaps he wanted to meet and talk out what had transpired between us, and listen to my side of the story. Or perhaps he wanted to reiterate that he thought I was a piece of low-life dirt not fit to grace the soles of his glossy wingtips.

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